Gears of War 4 Review

Posted on October 6, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Xbox One, Windows 10 with 16 Comments

Gears of War 4 Review

How you respond to Gears of War 4 will depend on your affection for the entire original Gears trilogy: This new game offers a stunning graphical upgrade, but it is highly derivative of the previous games, and is tediously repetitive.

Note: Gears of War 4 is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, so it works on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. I’ve tried it on both, but this review focuses on the Xbox One version. Also, it focuses solely on the single player experience.

In the good news department, the game is more colorful than past Gears titles ... about 40 percent of the time.

In the good news department, the game is more colorful than past Gears titles … about 40 percent of the time.

The original Gears of War was one of the Xbox 360’s early exclusive hits, though I felt let down by its overly-gray color palette and “loaded diaper” multiplayer game play, where your on-screen charges lumbered close to the ground as if weighed down. Subsequent games in the series, including an improved version of the original for the PC, and Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3 somewhat fixed both issues, however, with more colorful graphics and more verticality.

Spend thrilling hours hiding behind things in a loaded diaper.

Spend thrilling hours hiding behind things in a loaded diaper.

But the Gears series also suffered from a bad case of repetitiveness. It’s impossible to play these rail-based games and not know, immediately, when you enter a room that a fire fight is about to break out. It’s just wash, rinse, repeat, over and over and over. Gears 4 does nothing to fix this, and while the immediate effect is almost nostalgic, it gets overly-familiar—and old—quite quickly.

That said, the one thing I always liked about Gears was the single-player story line, which offered a compelling sci-fi view of a future world in which mankind is threatened with destruction by an alien underground race. Gears 4, again, offers more of the same, and the story suffers from the decisive conclusion of the original story: How do you once again threaten mankind with destruction when the evil alien race was so soundly defeated?

A rare achievement. Which I assume was rare only because the game wasn't out yet at the time.

A rare achievement. Which I assume was rare only because the game wasn’t out yet at the time.

I won’t give it all away. But the solution that The Coalition—a Microsoft Studios offshot that now controls the Gears franchise—comes up with is incredibly unsatisfying. Again, at first, it seems fresh: The action takes place outside, in a refreshingly colorful place that is no longer destroyed by war. You fight robots, instead of the same old aliens from before. Maybe this is a new Gears.


You'll need to get by this braggart at one point.

You’ll need to get by this braggart at one point.

Very quickly, the robots are pushed aside for a new set of aliens that are quite suspiciously exactly like the old set of aliens from the original trilogy. There are the same types of monsters, with the same capabilities and weapons. The Locust come back as the Swarm. Emergence holes return as nests, and you close them with frag grenades as before. It’s the same old, same old from a play perspective, and like “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens,” it’s better looking than the original, but you feel like you’ve seen this one before. Because you have.

And my are there are some truly tedious sequences in the game. Early on, thrill as you carry a crate across a large area. Sit, mouth agape, as you once again protect a thing or an area during predictable waves of attacks. It’s a rails shooter that makes no pretense of pretending that you can explore the seemingly big world around you. You go from point A to point B, and you shoot back at things that attack you. When all the monsters are defeated, you move on.

Even the gibs are more colorful.

Even the gibs are more colorful.

There are driving sequences and interminable areas in which you fight through in one direction and then fight through again as you walk back through the exact same place. There are those silly Gears bits where you have to choose to go left or right (the high road or the low road) as if either choice means anything. (These bits are designed for co-op play, of course. But the variety is limited.)

The Brumak returns!

The Brumak returns!

Your character is … who gives a crap. He’s the teen-lit son of Marcus Feenix, the protagonist from the previous games. Gruff ol’ Marcus makes a showing mid-way through the game and is then—spoiler alert—swallowed up by a monster and carried around like a bad lunch for the next few hours. It’s a less than fitting story line for the guy who saved the planet two decades earlier. And it calls to the mind the inexplicable behavior of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, the heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy, in The Force Awakens. (Let me get this one straight: Solo loses his ship, abandons his wife, and gives up on his kid. And Skywalker fails at making a new generation of Jedi and then … quits? Way to dump on my childhood, Mr. Abrams.)

A weathered old friend.

“I’m getting too old for this shit.”

Anyway, Who Gives a Crap and his two friends—Idiot One Liner and Token Female—from some teen CW drama walk around and banter just like Marcus and his friends did in the earlier trilogy. And while I want to applaud the addition of a woman to the lineup, I’ll just point out that this gender correction already happened in a previous Gears game. And that she brings literally nothing of interest to the table. Sorry, ladies.

These three clowns stroll around a world that is literally populated with stray guns, explosives, and ammo, just like in the original trilogy. In fact, that’s the most unrealistic part of the game. Which, when you think about it, is pretty hilarious.

I did die. On the inside, where it really hurts.

I did die. On the inside, where it really hurts.

As I write this, I’m on the final of five acts, but given my experience withe first 85 percent of the game, I feel comfortable stating that it will not redeem itself magically by the end. That said, I’ll finish it. Because I have to, not because I want to.

Paul looks eagerly forward to the end of this repetitive nightmare.

Paul looks eagerly forward to the end of this repetitive nightmare.

Put simply, Gears of War 4 is so tedious and repetitive that it’s like a job. Which I have to hope wasn’t the goal. Despite the lush graphics and presentation, it is not recommended, certainly not at the normal $60 price point.


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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Gears of War 4 Review”

  1. 1318

    For some reasons, I can't read the whole article on my Lumia 950xl as it's not resizing for mobile. Anyone else have the same issue?

  2. 427

    Maybe this is a dumb question, but aren't most multi-sequel games rinse and repeat? Let me ask honestly, because I don't play the game, is each relelase of Call of Duty, for example, different than the previous?  I'm sure there are new weapons and maps, but is their new facets of gameplay in every release, are the story modes a lot different in every release? I hope the answer is yes, but it just seems like it would be difficult to tell a new story in a series that has been around for 10+ years (I'm guessing at its age).  Any way I do appreciate your take on the game, I was somewhat considering playing it, but now I have no desire. Maybe when its discounted on steam I'll pick it up, so late next year :).  

    • 1292

      In reply to awright18:

      As I have heard elsewhere nostalgia is a hell of a drug! ;) I only ever played the first one so I am looking forward to this reiteration and am looking forward to "more of the same." That said, the thing I am coming up against more for these big gaming titles is price. The loonie price against the U.S. greenback means a new triple A title starts at $80.00! The super duper get all this cool digital crap included and play 4 days early version is $120.00! I can't bring myself to pay any of that!

    • 2

      In reply to awright18:

      Could be. But it seems like the move to Microsoft and to the Xbox One could have resulted in some change. Any change. 

  3. 4870

    Paul I think it's a little disingenuous to call the game tedious because you step into a room and shoot people, rinse and repeat. That's pretty much EVERY FPS game including your beloved Call of Duty series. If your complaint was a lack of variety of enemies or weapons or boss fights that were too easy, then we'd have something to discuss, but yours is a viewpoint that I constantly hear from my friends that only play COD. Since it's not COD it's not fun. Personally, I can't stand the floaty controls and amped up speed that COD has gone to nowadays (and don't get me started on the utterly forgetable protagonists in those series). Gears makes no pretense that it's an action adventure game, or open world shooter or anything other what you described. It's not as tactical as Rainbow Six, but to play on the harder levels you do have to be patient, take cover and plan your attack. 

    Battlefield 1 seems to be trying something a little different on the story front with the changing of characters once you die that's really got me interested, but I'll still say that for my money Gears is hands down one of the better FPS series. From what I've played of the beta and and from some of the videos of gameplay I've seen, this could easily be one of the best games of the year. Metacritic already has it in the high 80's with plenty of outlets rating it 90+. I'd say don't go into it expecting a COD clone and just enjoy the game, but I don't think I've ever heard you actually enjoy an FPS outside of COD so I'd be wasting my breath. As always, appreciate your insight, but I'll respectfully disagree with your assessments on the tedium.

  4. 245

    Its very interesting to read the divide that this game is creating.  Paul, Ars seem to dislike it (in some areas immensley). Yet Polygon, IGN, Game Informer, even Windows Central are giving it quite stellar reviews.  Initial less than positive reviews (Gamespot) were being bashed coming from a "PS4 fanboy outlet", but Paul is not one that would recieve that criticisim (at least, IMO).  But the viewpoint differences between reviews are fascinating - take the lead female character for example.  One review (Polygon? I forget) praised the character as a strong, thoroughly developed, multifaceted heroine.  Whereas, this review refers to her as "token female" and "...she brings literally nothing of interest to the table."

    This review may be tempered because its almost a "slow twitch" shooter vs. COD or Battlefield, which may drive the "tedious" label in this review.  No idea, just speculating...without having a chance to play, I can't make my own final conclusions.  

    I do believe that some of the commentary in this review seems misplaced... the following line "These three clowns stroll around a world that is literally populated with stray guns, explosives, and ammo, just like in the original trilogy" could almost literally be applied to any shooter, some of which have received glowing positive reviews on this site.  Yet it's a negative here?

    Paul, were you a fan of the previous games?  It does not sound like it in this review (this may be the most negative review i've read online for GoW4 at the moment). Not that you have to be - everyone has their own opinion, and this different insight was quite interesting to me.  

    In the end...I, for one, am very excited to play this game.  The original 3 were mainstays through high school for me, probably some of my favorite video games.



    • 2

      In reply to Dapke36:

      I would take an IGN review more seriously than, say, a blog that loves everything that Microsoft does. So I will take a look at that.

      All I can say is I've played through all of these games to completion, in some cases multiple times, and it's just gotten stale.

      The sad thing is, at the very end of the game there is a "new" experience where you're in a mech, and it's a completely different style. They waited WAY too long for that, and the whole game should be been rethought like that.


      • 245

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Absolutley, which is the reason I mentioned it last (and considered not including it at all).  Polygon and IGN for me are much more of a thorough "games" jornalistic venture.

        Not berating you for your opinion here.  I just find the different viewpoints interesting.  I think this was the most negative review of the bunch, which was suprising to me. 

  5. 191

    Thanks for the review, Paul.  I'll probably pick this up in a year or so, when the price is reduced to something more appropriate.

  6. 6212

    Paul.  I am disappointed.  You have every right to dislike the game if you want to, but please at least try the Horde and Versus modes first.  Those are what really sell the game and the series for me and for most people.  It's where all of the replayability and depth of the game is.

    As for the campaign, it doesn't sound like it could be any worse than any of the other shooter campaign.  I admit that no other Gears campaign (no other shooter campaign for that matter) has ever captured the feel of the original Gears campaign. 


  7. 4925

    "Anyway, Who Gives a Crap and his two friends—Idiot One Liner and Token Female—from some teen CW drama walk around and banter just like Marcus and his friends did in the earlier trilogy."

    My favorite line from the whole review.

    I know this was a focus on single player experience which is mostly what I am after but do you think MP crossplay will be a bigger deal then the SP game?  I have no idea what Gear's MP scene is like I never really got into it but it does seem like an interesting concept.  (Also saved me the trouble of buying an Xbox One)  I am very excited at the whole MS plan with PC and Xbox despite whatever whacked opinions of doom come from Epic on the matter.